JANUARY 6, 2011
Someone once said that Snake Plissken was a great character trapped in bad movies. While I don’t totally agree (New York is a damn fine flick, though I can do without LA for the most part), I can certainly see the point – he deserves a movie as 110% awesome as he is. And it’s something that came to mind while watching Creature From The Black Lagoon, because the monster was great, but whenever he wasn’t on-screen... yikes.
Part of the problem is the same I have with a lot of 50s horror movies – bland heroes with blander romantic subplots. I couldn’t give two shits about Mark and David’s rivalry for the affections of Kay, because none of them were particularly interesting characters (also, they’re not water monsters). Hell I could barely tell the two men apart (that they spend a good chunk of the movie shirtless doesn’t help – at least if they had clothes on I could be like ‘OK, Mark’s the guy with the tie.”). To top it all off, the other folks were far more interesting but got way less screen time – I could have watched a whole movie about Captain Lucas getting drunk and trying to find the Gill-Man on his own, a sort of river-set version of Of Unknown Origin. But no, he just sort of pops in every now and then, while I have to watch Kay and one of the guys discuss their wedding plans.
And in 3D! I actually forgot about that aspect until the movie was almost over (when a bat flew at the camera for no reason), so I guess it wasn’t bad 3D or else there would have been a lot of moments like that annoying me throughout the movie (like Friday the 13th part 3 in 2D). But for a movie with so little action, I’m sort of curious what the 3D presentation was like – thrill as folks talk and talk in THREE DIMENSIONS! I guess that would explain the rather stiff camerawork and editing – there are a number of scenes with 5-6 characters crammed into one shot.
But when the Creature was around, it was pretty fun. Unlike most of the Universal monsters, he isn’t sympathetic in any way, which makes him surprisingly scary. There’s a great/creepy bit where he’s sort of treading water at the bottom of the boat, watching Kay and one of the guys talk – their conversation is as boring as ever, but it’s creepy as hell watching Gill-man just floating there with his huge dead eyes. I also like how he dives into the water so gracefully; guess he took a few lessons at the Y. The score is also quite rousing; I’d actually listen to it on its own, which isn’t common for these older films, or horror films in general (I’m more of a Hans Zimmer or Trevor Rabin action/bombast kind of guy).
And there’s no fire at the end! Sure, this movie came along quite late in the monster cycle, but I was still expecting the usual fiery climax. Nope, it takes place in a cave, and Creach just gets shot a few times before swimming off, either to die or to be in a sequel with Clint Eastwood (which I’ve seen via MST3k, and can’t recall much about it, other than that Captain Lucas returned). Sadly, a lot of the other “action sequences” are a bit too familiar. Granted, Gill-man can’t be out of the water for too long, but they could have used a few more boat or (watery) cave sequences, and a few less of folks swimming around underwater for a few minutes, seeing Creach, swimming away in a panic, and getting out of the water before anything bad happens.
A remake has been in development for 20 years now (!), and I’m all for it. The concept is good, the monster is great, but the bland heroes and limited means weigh the movie down. Sadly the new Creature will probably be CGI based (I think the suit holds up quite well, however), but if they can fix the other issues (more interesting leads, some variety to the action, etc), then it could easily be an improvement over the original. Also if they keep Peter Jackson the hell away, it might be a success, making up for The Wolfman and possibly allowing a resurgence of other classic monsters (I’d love a big-budget – but period - Invisible Man flick, personally).
What say you?